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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb on the air here, with our last broadcast of 2009. This is your hypnopompically genial host John Derbyshire with the week's news, courtesty of National Review Online, principal organ of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. A busy week here at Buckley Towers. We had to spend a whole day cleaning up after the Christmas party. The later stages of the party, about which I am glad to say I remember very little, took place in Jonah's suite up on 96, and I'm afraid there was some horseplay in the grotto up there, resulting in water leakage down through the ceiling into our state-of-the-art recording studio here. No serious harm done, though, thanks to some energetic work by Pépé with his mop and bucket and my ever-resourceful research assistants Mandy, Candy and Brandy with their hair driers. Well, let's see what happened while we were dosing our hangovers with egg nog.
02 — Pants bomber. The big news story of the holiday weekend was the attempt by Nigerian Muslim Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up an airliner using some explosive he'd secreted in his BVDs. Few internet commentators or newspaper subeditors could resist the wealth of punning and alliteration opportunities the incident provided: "great balls of fire," "jihad jockeys," "operating on a shorts fuse," "security laps," and so on. The thing that caught my eye was that Mr. Abdulmutallab is a graduate of University College, London, my own alma mater. If the beer they serve in the student union lounge there is as bad as it was in my day, I'd say there's the basis for a courtroom defense right there. Be that as it may, the incident threw a harsh light on the way our federal employees carry out the functions with which we have entrusted them. The Department of State, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the CIA all operated here with the skill and coordination of the proverbial monkey trying to get intimate with a football. State was the first department involved, when Abdulmutallab's father, one of the most important men in Africa, told our Nigeria embassy that his son had been radicalized. State handed it off to Justice, who put Abdulmutallab's name on a CIA terrorist watch list but took no other action. Abdulmutallab had a multiple-entry visa for the U.S.A., issued last year; but if his being put on the watch list set off any alarm bells in Homeland Security, nobody heard them. Homeland Security did get involved after the incident happened, when Janet Napolitano, who may be the most clueless and worthless of Obama's cabinet appointments, though that's a mighty crowded field — Janet showed up to say that all proper procedures had been followed and everything was tickety-boo. Obama himself then emerged from the surf, like Botticelli's Venus, to tell us that Abdulmutallab was a, quote, "lone extremist" with absolutely no connections to anyone else or to any cause, and most certainly not to any religion, and if anyone said otherwise, he'd sic Eric Holder on them. Nothing to worry about then, according to the feds.
03 — New air travel security. You'd think the head of the TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, would have had something to say by now. Perhaps he would, but for one inhibiting factor: he doesn't exist. That's right: eight months into the administration, Obama still hasn't put anyone in charge of the TSA. I mean, hey, it's not like that's an important job, like, oh, Safe Schools Czar, or Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, both of which slots have been filled. To be fair to Obama, he has recently put forward a nominee, former FBI special agent Erroll Southers, but Republicans fear Southers will unionize the airport screeners, leaving them even more bored, lackadaisical, and error-prone than they currently are, if you can imagine that. Meanwhile the headless TSA has been running around like a … like a … sorry, can't think of a suitable simile there; it's been running around instituting new proceudres right, left, and center. Pretty soon we'll have to drain the fluid out of our eyeballs before they let us on a plane. Look, what we have here is what we mathematically sophisticated types call an asymptotic function. Permit me to explain. As you add more security procedures, the chance of someone blowing up a plane decreases. It doesn't do so evenly, though. Let's suppose that with no airport security procedures at all, the probability of an average international flight being blown up in mid-air by a terrorist is X. That's the probability, a number between 1 — absolute certainty, and zero — total impossibility. Even with no security procedures at all, the number is pretty small, though of course not zero. Your first restrictions, forbidding passengers from taking firearms on planes, which I think came in during the 1950s, slashed the probability of disaster by ninety percent right away. So the probability of disaster is now 0.1X. The next thing, baggage inspections, chopped another major chunk off that figure, bringing it down to perhaps 0.02X. The probability of disaster was then about one fiftieth of what it would have been with no restrictions. Then came the post-9/11 rules forbidding sharp objects, which shaved a bit more off that probability, leaving us perhaps at 0.01X. Then the scares about shoe bombs and explosive liquids brought in new rules, and the disaster probability was pushed down a wee bit more, say to 0.007X. Whatever the TSA comes up with now will push it down a tad further, perhaps to 0.005X. The total body scanners they're talking about might get us to 0.003X … and so on. Point is, you never get to zero. Once you've banned firearms, hand grenades, samurai swords, dynamite, hunting bows, and nunchucks, you've picked all the low-hanging fruit in airport security. After that you're just shaving off a tenth of a percent here or there. And you never get all the way to zero. That's the news on airport security, folks. You won't hear it from the government people, but you heard it here on Radio Derb — the unvarnished truth.
04 — The Yemen problem. And now we have a new problem nation: Yemen. It used to be the Yemen, like the Lebanon, the Ukraine, and when I was a kid, the Argentine. We're losing the the's, though. I think we citizens of the U.S.A. should fight to keep ours. Anyway, Yemen, Al Qaeda's new home. 204 thousand square miles — halfway between California and Texas in size. Population 24 million, half of them under 16. Total Fertility Rate 6.3 children per woman, the world's seventh highest. GDP per capita: $2,500 — they're living on an average fifty bucks a week. The president of Yemen actually got a mention in We Are Doomed, page 50, where I'm discussing the longevity in office of the leaders of various Third World hell-holes. Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, ranks second, with 32 years in power. Now, we hear that the Yemenis are responding well to bribery, and actually conducting some joint missions against Al Qaeda with U.S. Special Forces. The place is so corrupt, ethnically divided, and ill-organized, though, it's pretty much a Somalia in the making; and of course, with this latest incident, Mr. Abdulmutallab having trained in Yemen, the bribes to be paid for Yemeni officials' co-operation, real or faked, just went up a whole lot. It's a darn good thing our president has ordered another 30 thousand troops into Yemen to deal with the situation. Oh no, wait a minute, it's Afghanistan the troops are being sent to. Why do we always seem to be fighting the wrong country nowadays?
05 — Afghanistan. Oh yes, Afghanistan. How are we doing there? Well, I think our troops are still allowed to shoot at the enemy, provided they get sign-off from three government attorneys first. The main point of our presence there, though, is to show the Afghans how nice we are, so that the average Afghan fighter will smack himself on the forehead and say: "Wow, these Americans are really kind and generous people with a truly bodacious Constitution and stuff. I can't believe I've been fighting against them!" That's our basic strategy over there. How's it working out? Not too well, according to national security experts Thomas Johnson and Chris Mason, writing in Foreign Affairs magazine. Johnson and Mason pick apart President Obama's December 1st Afghanistan speech, and go on to argue that we are seeing a re-enactment of Vietnam. The Karzai government is, they say, quote, "an utterly illegitimate, incompetent kleptocracy." The Afghan National Army is illiterate, unmotivated, the wrong ethnicity, and addled with problems of drug use and desertion. Worst of all, the authors say, Pakistan has weighed Barack Obama in the scales and found him wanting. The Pakis have lost whatever faith they might have had in America's ability to win the war, and have, quote, "ordered their top military intelligence service, the ISI, to immediately begin rebuilding and strengthening covert ties to the Afghan Taliban in anticipation of their eventual return to power … There will be no more genuine cooperation from Pakistan (if there ever was)." End quote. Now of course, Johnson and Mason could be wrong. Hamid Karzai might be the Abraham Lincoln of the Hindu Kush. The Afghan National Army might, with a couple years' more training, be fit to give the Israeli Defense Force a run for its money. The Taliban might decide that radical Islam is all a crock after all, and convert en masse to Christian Science. Who knows? The future is full of possibilities. In any case, our guys have to go on fighting and sweating and dying in Afghanistan because the war there is real important. We know it is, because the president said so.
06 — Berkeley High. You can't avoid the impression that liberals really hate human accomplishment. See, when a brilliant human being accomplishes something, the thought might creep into someone's head that the accomplisher is better than the average person. And if that thought ever became widespread — if the Great Unwashed of America ever got it into their heads that some people achieve more than others — then we would all start foaming at the mouth and set about each other with axes and pick handles. Case in point: Berkeley High School. Yes, that Berkeley — Liberalism Central. The high school is a big one, 33 hundred students, half white and Asian, half non-Asian Minorities. Alas, while white and Asian students are doing much better than the state average, the black and Hispanic students are doing much worse — the dreaded achievement gap. The gap is especially wide in the school science departments. What's to be done? The solution that the School Governance Council has come up with is to close down the school's science labs, dismiss the five science teachers, in order to, quote, "free up more resources to help struggling students." This is entirely in line with the educational theories promoted in our teacher-training institutions, according to which teaching is a sort of missionary endeavor, targeted at the, quote, "underprivileged." That's code for non-Asian minorities. It's also in line with other current approaches to the achievement gap between white and Asian students on one hand, black and Hispanic students on the other. Forty years of trying to raise up the latter group to the achievement test scores of the former have failed comprehensively. OK: if we can't figure out how to lift up the lower-scoring groups, we'll drag down the higher-scoring ones. That'll solve the problem! Liberalism in action.
07 — Doomed: conclusion. A final extract from that world-shaking book We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism. In our previous twelve broadcasts, starting October 9th, I have given one extract each from the book's first twelve chapters. It only remains for me to close out with a reading from Chapter 13, my conclusion, chapter title "The Audacity of Hopelessness." Here, near the end of the chapter, I have just been expatiating on my own good fortune in having been born when and where I was. I proceed to doubt that my kids will be similarly fortunate.
I can't believe my kids — currently sixteen and thirteen — will have that kind of luck. What I hear from friends and neighbors is, you can't get them out of the house. They might go away to college, but they'll come back, likely weighed down with student-loan debt, and resume occupancy of their old rooms. There will be no nine to five jobs for them to go to after graduation, quite possibly no jobs at all other than in government make-work, which by that time will occupy a Soviet-sized slice of the U.S. economy.
The demographic cratering of the Ice People civilizations will surround them with peevish oldsters and load them down with financial obligations. Their religion will have melted away into a vague welfarized spirituality, though elsewhere different religions may still inspire murder on the grand scale. Even the metaphysical underpinnings of our civilization — volition, responsibility, judgment, reason itself — will have been humbled and shrunk by the neuroscientists.
Nuclear weapons, throughout my lifetime kept safe under guard in just a handful of reasonably well-ordered and rational nations, will be bartered for cash in Third World bazaars and smuggled into American cities ready for the day of judgment. (Perhaps they already have been.) Clever new viruses will mutate, escape from labs, or be released. Britain's Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees, in his 2003 book Our Final Hour, tells us thatI staked one thousand dollars on a bet: "That by the year 2020 an instance of bioerror or bioterror will have killed a million people." Of course, I fervently hope to lose this bet. But I honestly do not expect to.To my kids I should like to say: I am sorry to have brought you into this mess. There were no bells ringing, no bands playing, at either of your births, and it would have been a travesty if there had been. Even the best, most moral, justest, and wisest of us — people like your dad, I mean — live in part by brute biological instinct, and there is no instinct stronger than the one that prompts us to continue the species. So here you are.
It's not all bad, though. Study Samuel Beckett's Winnie. Read the poets — the sturdy, stoic ones like Sam Johnson, Matthew Arnold and Rudyard Kipling, not the pampered victimological whiners of the Eng. Lit. departments and M.F.A. courses. Brace yourselves to ride out misfortunes, and find happiness in small pastimes and the company of friends. Let your souls be serene and manly, harden'd to sustain / The load of life, and exercis'd in pain.
We are a rugged species, up for anything the universe can throw at us; and as the great gloominaries knew, we will be immeasurably better prepared for nasty surprises if we approach the universe realistically — pessimistically — than if we continue to peer out at our surroundings through a distorting, rose-colored prism of wish-fulfillment fantasy.
08 — Miscellany. Our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: You know the leftist mantra from back in 2003: We went to war for oil! Blood for oil! Etc., etc. That was the left's take on the Iraq war. Well, here's a headline from Time magazine, quote: "U.S. Companies Shut Out as Iraq Auctions Its Oil Fields," end quote. Yes, our friends in Iraq have been auctioning off contracts to pump oil out of the Iraqi fields. Guess who got none of the contracts? That's right: American firms. Guess who got lots of the contracts? Yes, it's our pals Russia, China, and France. So we spent two trillion dollars on this stupid war, and didn't even get an oil contract out of it. The fools of the world, we are the fools of the world.
Item: Radio Derb reported two weeks ago on the killing of Mexican drug boss Arturo Beltran Levya by a unit of the Mexican Navy. Well, Mr. Levya's colleagues were not happy with the rubbing out of their boss. They decided to take revenge against the servicemen who'd carried out the raid. As it happens, the only one whose name was publicized was Melquisedet Angulo, a marine who was killed in the raid. He was the only fatality on the government side. The Mexican navy gave him a fine funeral, honoring him as a national hero, and that of course made his name known. To demonstrate who really runs Mexico, the gangsters slaughtered Angulo's mother, aunt and siblings just hours after the memorial service. There you have Mexican politics in a nutshell … coming soon to an American city near you.
Item: More evidence that we are the fools of the world. Two left-wing Hispanic Democrats in the House of Representatives, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Solomon Ortiz of Texas — and if you wish to mentally translate the phrase "left-wing Hispanic Democrats" as "Anglo-hating shills for the government of Mexico," I am not the person to stop you doing so — OK, these representatives just introduced HR 4321: the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009, hereinunder CIR ASAP. What does this bill do? Not to put too fine a point on it, listeners, it abolishes U.S. citizenship. The bill is actually 645 pages, so I don't recommend trying to read it. Representatives Gutierrez and Ortiz have kindly provided an executive summary, even more kindly in English, so you can get the main idea. No more border enforcement, no more E-Verify, amnesty for everybody, increases in legal immigration, special welfare and privileged victim status for Hispanics, millions of federal dollars earmarked for La Raza and ACORN, and so on. The basic idea of HR 4321 is to make the U.S.A. the 32nd state of Mexico. This would bring us all the blessed advantages of Mexican government and Mexican law (see above), along with Mexico's work ethic and Mexico's tremendous, world-beating creativity in the arts and sciences. Call your congressman and urge him to vote for HR 4321!
Item: The ChiComs have executed a British citizen, 53-year-old Akmal Shaikh. Yes, he's a British citizen — can't you tell from the name? Well, Mr. Shaikh tried to smuggle nine pounds of heroin into China. The ChiComs arrested him, gave him what passes for a trial, and added him to the two thousand or so people they execute every year. This story sets off warring emotions in my head, or wherever it is that emotions dwell. Up front is the whole business about drugs being illegal. I'm not a libertarian on this, I think some drugs should be illegal, but I acknowledge there are good arguments on the other side. Then there's the capital punishment issue, where I come down strongly for. On the other side of that is skepticism about the ability of courts to get the right person and apply the right penalty. The regular dribble of stories about guys being released on DNA evidence after spending years in jail on rape charges, shows how imperfect the business is, even in lawyered-up America, never mind communist China. In this case, though, there seems no doubt that Mr. Shaikh did the thing he's accused of doing — his defenders don't deny it. What those defenders mainly argue is that Mr. Shaikh is too retarded and/or emotionally disturbed to have known what he was doing. Fiddlesticks. The guy lived in the world 53 years, held down a job, fathered three children — how incapable can he be? Stupid I'll certainly allow — bringing heroin into China is major-league stupidity. I don't know that stupidity ever got anyone off in a court of law, theough. If it did, our prisons would be empty. If Mr. Shaikh was incapably stupid, his family are at fault for not having made proper arrangements for his care. If he was not, then he got what was coming to him.
Item: Here I go again, you ready? Here it comes: GET A GOVERNMENT JOB! If you can't get a job with the feddle gummint, snoozing over an X-ray machine at some airport or stamping visas into terrorists' passports while simultaneously playing Call of Duty on your iPhone, try your state govenment. In my own state of New York last year, quote from the December 28th New York Post, quote: "a six-figure tsunami swept the state payroll last year, with the number of state workers who earn more than $100,000 surging 28 percent." End quote. Do I need to remind you that New York State is flat broke, with huge budget crises looming up in the near future? I'm sure I don't. What's their solution? Raise the salaries of state employees! Further quote: "The six-figure surge will likely continue. Union employees got a three percent hike this year … They're slated to get another four percent hike next year, when the state faces a deficit of nine billion dollars." One more time, citizens: GET A GOVERNMENT JOB!
09 — Signoff. Well, there you have it, listeners. As they say at the U.S. Treasury: "Another year older and deeper in debt." Oh, here's our diversity hire, Ahmed. Say, Ahmed, is that 80 grams of pentaerythritol tetranitrate in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me? [Laughter] Oh, we have so much fun here with Ahmed. He takes it all in good part, though, don't you, buddy? [Ahmed: The hour of vengeance approaches.] Ha ha ha ha! He's such a joker. You got any New Year resolutions, Ahmed? [Ahmed: Yes. I am resolved to drink the blood of infidels in 2010.] Oh, Ahmed! — you're a laugh a minute. Well, folks, our half hour has ticked away here, if Ahmed will pardon the expression. Nothing remains but to wish you all a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year, with all that you wish for yourselves and those you care about. As is traditional for New Year at Radio Derb, the great Peter Dawson will sing us out. Happy New Year, everybody!
[Music clip: Dawson singing Auld Lang Syne]